There is a growing emphasis on healthy eating in the UK, so it's no surprise we take notice of every new diet theory and trend, embracing them in a quest to become fitter, healthier and happier. However, do all these fads really equal a healthier lifestyle, or are we being lead astray by inaccurate studies and research that encourages us to eat all the wrong things?
Recently, the low-fat guidelines we have been so eagerly following for the last 40 years have been called into question. Since the 1970s, various governments have advised eating as little fat as possible, following a study that suggested excessive fat consumption caused heart disease. New research disproves this, however, leading many to call for a complete overhaul of the current nutritional guidelines.
Saturated fats are mainly found in dairy products, red meat, cakes and biscuits. The official guidelines say that eating too much can increase your chances of heart disease, putting you at risk of heart and stroke. However, contrary of popular belief, a new report suggests that actually saturated fat has no link with heart disease, and that the original research supporting this was deeply flawed.
The existing recommendations by the British Dietetic Association state that men should consume no more than 30g of saturated fat daily while women are advised to consume no more than 20g, however this evidence is now outdated with many experts contradicting these respective amounts.
Led by Zoe Harcombe – researcher at the University of the West of Scotland – the report exposed many flaws in the study, including the exclusion of women and the subjects being mainly unhealthy men, implying the results cannot be generalized to the entire UK population. As Harcombe points out, this led to dietary guidelines being applied to 56 million UK citizens, which should have "never been introduced".
So saturated fat isn't quite the adversary we thought. What other lies have we been living?
A grain-based diet has been popular for a number of years, however grains are low in nutrients, so eating a large amount can actually have the opposite effect if you're looking to lose a couple of pounds. In fact one of the most active ingredients in grain – gluten – can be responsible for a whole host of issues including tiredness and bloating due to its effect on the intestinal lining.
Many diets claim that eating more frequent, smaller meals in a day will aid in weight-loss, boost your metabolism and health. In theory, opting for more meals a day is often as unpractical as it is unhelpful. Food is converted into energy regardless of the time of day, and research has shown that fewer, more substantial meals will keep you fuller for longer.
Low fat food tends to contain many other unnatural elements to compensate. Fat offers your food flavour, and without that, manufacturers must make the taste more appealing by including sugars and syrups. There is no evidence that artificial sweeteners are any better for you than the original fats and sugars, either.
121doc have a BMI calculator to help you work out if you need to lose weight.